91. Switching on spring

by | Apr 18, 2016 | Bulgarian life, Gardening bore | 0 comments

I don’t want to be one of those awful English people who move abroad and complain about the heat, but (she says, limbering up to complain about the heat) … it’s 30°C here today. Thirty degrees! In Bulgaria, spring often starts like the flicking of a switch and it’s common for the daytime temperatures in late March/early April to ramp up from 10°C to 20°C within a matter of days. But 30°C? It’s all wrong for April. Going outside is like standing in a hairdryer. I hate to go on about it but it’s just so hot.

On the plus side, the garden is about a month ahead of where it usually is. Our irises, comfrey and aquilegias are already in flower, and the alliums and peonies are about to pop.


We moved these our first summer here and they sulked for FOUR years before flowering again. Divas.

Last night we planted out our tomatoes in the polytunnel – something we wouldn’t usually do until mid-May. Svilen was doing his at the exact same time and Stanka, our neighbour on the other side of the lane, did hers last week, so everyone is taking advantage of the early heatwave.


Tomatoes waiting patiently to go in the ground.


If you zoom in and squint you can see the tomatoes planted deep in the ground (bury them deep and they grow more roots). Also, we’re leaving both ends off the polytunnel this year, for better ventilation, so it probably no longer counts as a polytunnel. It’s more of a tomato anorak.

Rob *may* have gone a bit mad on tomatoes this year. Every year he gets more obsessed with them but this year he’s reached Peak Tomato. He has ended up with over 70 plants (not all in the polytunnel, he’s not that mad), across seven different varieties – we usually grow around 40 plants, across four varieties. We’re growing our normal big Bulgarian pinks, Bulgarian yellow plums, and Latah cherry tomatoes (a tasty bush variety). And new for this year we have two different varieties of big Bulgarian reds (both sets of seed came from friends/neighbours), a black cherry variety, and a big black tomato called Black Krim.

We try to do a rough rotation system in the big veg beds, which is great as it gives me more opportunities for planning and list-making. Our magnificent kale (KALE!) has finally gone to seed, a year after it was planted. In its place we’ve sown parsnips. We have new kale seedlings growing in the bedroom which will go out in a different bed next month, along with some swede and turnips. I’m growing the same dwarf curly kale as last year, plus a big Siberian kale. The Siberian seedlings are already comically bigger than the dwarf seedlings, so I may have to set aside more room than I thought, or maybe bung some in the flower borders. I am as obsessed with kale as Rob is with his tomatoes. Some people have exciting hobbies like zumba or mountain climbing. I have kale. I like growing kale, cooking kale, thinking about kale, writing about kale and, sometimes, just going outside and looking at the kale. I suspect this is a bit weird but it’s hard to tell – Bulgaria really warps your sense of what’s normal and what’s not.


Farewell, beloved kale.


Swede and turnip seedlings.

Other seedlings that’ll go out soon: courgettes, butternut squash (to be grown up a trellis), aubergines (to go in the polytunnel with the toms, if Rob allows it), globe artichokes, sweet potatoes, beetroot and beet greens.

We also made a new strawberry bed up on the hill, behind the polytunnel. I let the strawberries run wild last year, rooting all over the vegetable garden, so we would get more plants. Again, we’ve gone a bit mad. We’ve got at least 150 strawberry plants now, which is probably asking for trouble in terms of birds and mice. This year I promise to be much more diligent about cutting off the runners so we don’t get swamped. I’ll probably have to go through the ballache of netting the plants, too.


New strawberry bed.


In other news, I am embracing middle age with hearty aplomb. Yesterday I was pricking out flower seedlings while drinking gin and tonic and listening to Radio 2 when it hit me, the whole middle-agedness of it all. It felt good, the middle-agedness, very chill. (I kind of imagine all middle-aged people to be very content, zen-like creatures with loads of money, great personal style and no irrational fears. I’m working on the zen stuff but that’s about it.)

Things I have been irrationally scared of this month: my new tattoo being infected (it wasn’t), getting blood poisoning from an infected tattoo (‘It doesn’t even look infected,’ said Rob, like, a million times), moles (of the skin cancer variety – have you noticed I am batshit crazy about my health lately?); snakes (one of our cats proudly brought us a dead one, cheers); ants (which are taking over the house like a horror movie); diabetes (which I don’t have).* Fun, fun, fun.

Also, our rhubarb has reached its oversize, Little Shops of Horrors phase.



*Things I am less worried about since coming to Bulgaria: spiders; wasps; not understanding what is going on; chaos.


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